He was bent over, peering intently at the light-brown expanse slowly drifting around him. His hands, grasped tightly around the large steering wheel, were universally callused, the knuckles split from dryness, the deep ridges filled with dried blood. What little smoothness graced his hands was due to old burns suffered with a monk-like understanding. His shirt collar was ripped at one end at the seam, and will slowly rip more until a fit of impatience will cause him to rip it off completely and toss it into a fire. Most of the stains on his shirt were covered with a vest--ceremonial in nature--the only bit of flourishment he subjects himself while driving his boss’ car.
The farm was miles ahead with nothing in between, yet he kept his eyes dead-set on the road, trying to keep the jittery car between the fading white and yellow lines.
The man next to him was his business partner, if he could be called that. His eyes drooped, his head bobbed as he drifted in and out of sleep from want of anything better to do. He sat somewhat cockeyed, trying to rest his head in the angle between the door and the rear window. The metal door was hard and gave him a pain if he stayed in one position long enough. In between one of his somnial sojourns he watched as the driver tried in vain to swat away the drooping windshield wiper. After the third failed attempt the passenger let out a grunt and chuckled softly.
“Man, I cant keep this dang wiper outta my face,” the driver said. “And I cant even see the dang road without bending over.”
“Boss has a body like an anchovy.”
“Speaking of which, the old man wants us to get the rest of the pigs ready for slaughter by today.”
The passenger shifted slightly in the seat, and the subterranean springs groaned. “How many we got left?”
“Cant remember. Ten, maybe twenty left.”
“Dang, I wish that ol fool would give us more time before we do crap like that.”
“Yeah, I aint even got time for a two minute nap,” the driver said.
The car chugged up a small hill topped with a tall dead tree, casting a thin shade on the grass.
“You hungry?” the passenger asks.
“Course I am! The missus only gave me one whole egg this morning. Why, you got something you didnt tell me about?”
“Nome, just looks like there’s some picnickers up there, maybe we can get a sandwich or something.” Off in the distance a small splotch of not-brown dotted the field.
“Yeah or maybe they gonna laugh you back to the car.”
The driver yanked the wheel hard and the car reluctantly rolled onto the shoulder. The passenger door opened and he jumped out and briskly walked toward the picnickers. Their heads swiveled up at the same time and peered expressionless as he walked up. The seated man had on a pair of thick glasses and a straw boater hat with a thick red, white, and blue band around it. His suit was a three-piece and cream colored, with a thin red tie jutting from his neck and diving into his vest. His whole ensemble was starched flat, crisp, neat and flavorless.
“Howdy! Hope you don’t mind me budging in. My name’s Coburn and my buddy over there's named Bob and we work at a ranch down the way.”
“Oh, not a problem. My name is Quentin Pitwicky and this is my beautiful wife Julianne. Are you having car trouble of some sort? I’m not good with my hands but I have had some classes in engineering.”
“No no, nothing like that,” the man laughed. “Me and Bob, we hadnt nothing to eat since yesterday and we gotta wrestle with some pigs, and we figured maybe yall had some leftovers or something.”
The wife propped herself up on her elbow and her golden shoulder-length hair bobbed from equilibrium. Little bits of light reflected off her purple sequined dress. “Well, I didn’t pack much, just something for the two of us. Don’t you have some money to buy a sandwich?”
“No maam. I’m poorer than ol Richard.”
“What about your car over there?” the husband asked. “It looks straight off of the lot.”
“That’s our bosses car. He only lets us drive it if we gotta pick up supplies or something.”
“Like I said, all we have is enough for two sandwiches and a couple pieces of pie,” the wife said.
“Pie? You got pie? What kind?”
“Coburn,” the husband said, “we aren’t exactly in the business in giving away our food to anyone who drives up and asks for it. I’m sure you understand.”
“Oh I see, you’re one of them folks. All I asking is for a bit of food so I can go and slaughter the pigs you gonna eat in a couple days time. I figure that’s enough for a couple bites of something.”
“If what you say is true Mr. Coburn,” the wife said, “then I hope you shall be duly compensated for your work. We have nothing to give you. I suggest you walk back to your car and commence your work before you embarrass yourself further.”
“I can assure you maam that the only embarrassment is from yall two’s stingyness.”
“That is enough, sir!” the husband shouted.” We will not be accosted by vagabonds while we try to enjoy our lunch!”
The man stopped and looked at the couple for a moment, then squatted down, his hands hanging near his knees. “I aint established myself as a vagabond I dont reckon, but if you thinks of me that way I guess I aint got any other choice but to act like one.” He reached in slowly to his side pocket and pulled out a rusty pistol, small and compact, parts of its once mirror finish worn away to a flat gray. One side of the pistol grip was missing, exposing the inner mechanisms. He raised the pistol to hip height and thumbed back the hammer with a satisfying heavy metallic click. “Now, you didn’t answer my question: what kind of pie you got?”
The couple’s eyes moved to the pistol but they kept their blank expression. A beat later the wife started to smile. “You’re going to rob us with that? It's probably as old as my grandfather!”
“Dont matter how old it is. Still works just fine. Don’t you think two pieces of pie is worth the gamble?”
The woman cocked her head sideways and brushed a loose strand of hair away. “Mr. Coburn, if you insist on resorting to violence over a couple bites of food, then I suppose you may have them. Be warned though that the sheriff will be told of your general appearance and of your car’s. I’m sure your boss will not be happy that his car was used in robbing two defenseless people in the middle of a field.”
“My boss dont care what we do long as we kill them pigs. Sheriff dont care much for two pieces of pie either. Now hand them over in a napkin so’s I don’t dirty up my hands.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like some of our roast beast, or perhaps my pocket watch as well?” the husband said.
“I don’t care much for roast beef. Don’t think Bob does either.” The man cocked his head back and yelled. “Hey Bob, you want some roast beef?”
The driver awoke from a slumber upon hearing his name. “Nome,” he said, and his head found its spot back on the steering wheel.
“There you go, and I don’t care much for the time either.”
The woman used a fork to take out the two smallest pieces of pie and wrapped them loosely into a napkin. The squatting man snatched them from her and took a bite. “Mmm, pumpkin. You make this yourself Miss Pitwicky?”
“I bought it from Woolworth's.”
“Well I’m gonna have to find that store once I get me some cash. Thank yall very much and I hope yall have a wonderful day.”
“Go to hell,” the husband murmured. The man pulled slightly on the trigger and guided the hammer back with his thumb to the safe position, then stuffed it back into his greasy pocket. He stood up and stared at the couple for a moment with a big child-like girl, then winked and turned around and ran towards the car.
“Bob! I got us some pie! Get moving!” The car jerked forward and the man ran alongside it, jumping onto the running boards with a quick hop. The man handed in the wrapped pie and with a swift movement opened the door and slid in as the car sped up.
“Pumpkin pie? They just gave you this?”
“Nome, had to use my pistol.”
“The one you aint got bullets for?”